March 08, 2011
With a limited amount of money to sink into your rig, here's a plan to make your old boat feel like new.
I've driven bass boats capable of 90-plus mph. As often as not, they had little in the way of fishability. I've driven other rigs that had poor performance, but were stable as a barge when we stopped to fish.
Boat-and-motor packages are often sold with a lower horsepower engine to keep the price down. Upgrading to a larger engine is a great way to improve your rig. –ª Photo courtesy of Yamaha Motor.
Somewhere between the extremes is the ideal bass boat for you: A boat that obtains the best performance -- not necessarily the top speed -- and the fishability to suit your fishing style.
Often you can attain this by adding to, or upgrading, elements on your existing boat. Of course, some performance elements of a boat can't be changed -- the size and shape of the hull for instance, as well as the horsepower rating. But note that boat packages are often sold with a lower horsepower engine to keep the price down. Upgrading to a larger engine is often the first step to improving your package. Other elements can also be changed to provide better performance.
Several years ago I tested a "hot" new bass boat with David Greenwood of Suzuki. He had a trunk full of new propellors, and we spent hours changing out props and moving the engine up and down on the jackplate -- sometimes as little as 1/16 of an inch at a time. We finally achieved the right prop and engine-height combination that provided the best possible lift, hole shot, acceleration and speed. Not only was the boat fast, but you could drive it with your fingertips -- one of the most important aspects of performance in my opinion.
A wide range of props are available, and this is where you'll need the help of a pro. Your local dealer or prop shop can help you put together the right mix. Don't make the mistake many anglers do: They prop the boat before it's set-up to fish. Instead, fill the fuel tank, put two people in the boat, and load all your tackle and gear aboard. You'll get a realistic feel of its performance.
The next step is proper engine height. Most dealers and boat riggers have a set formula for engine height with different engines and boat hulls. But again, even a little adjustment can make a big performance difference.
A jackplate not only simplifies finessing engine height, but hydraulic jackplates can also be used as a running performance enhancer.
When a boat is underway, the hull actually pushes water down. And when the water comes out from under the hull, it has a lot of air and foam. The setback of the jackplate positions the engine farther back and away from the majority of the foam.
READ: Side Scan Fishing Technology Explained
If you're serious about bass fishing, my advice is to buy the best electronics you can afford. Side-imaging sonars, such as the Humminbird units or Lowrance's StructureScan add-on to their HDS units, provide a whole new "look" at bass fishing. And now Lowrance's new Down Imaging technology adds even more. The new technology provides an instant "snapshot" directly below the boat.
Upgrading to a wireless, GPS-controlled trolling motor can also make your fishing easier. Both Motor Guide and Minn Kota have units with these features. The technology, such as Minn Kota's i-Pilot, utilizes GPS positioning to allow you to record a track and then simply push a button to automatically fish along the track. And you can also use their spot-lock feature that works like an electronic anchor.
Many higher-end bass boats come with on-board chargers. More economically priced boats frequently do not, but this is one product that can save a lot of hassles and time. Units, such as the ProMariner XPS models from Bass Pro, utilize Transfer-On-Demand technology to maintain engine cranking battery while maximizing available charging amps to meet the demands of trolling motor batteries.
READ: Pro Tips For Maintaining Your Fishing Gear
The Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchor is basically an electronically controlled hydraulic anchor. It mounts on the transom of the boat and deploys in under 5 seconds. It allows you to stop your boat quickly and quietly with a touch of a button, and position the boat immediately where you want to make your cast.
Upgrades as well as add-ons can make your bass boat more efficient, safer, easier to drive and more pleasurable to fish.